Corporate Portals Get Personal to Get Users

SAN MATEO (03/20/2000) - If your company is one of the many hoping to drive productivity and knowledge sharing through the implementation of a corporate portal, you may need to know one thing: If you build it, they may not come.

Portal software vendor Sequoia Software this week will launch a series of partnerships with the theory that "populist applications" which marry professional and personal utility will make corporate portals more compelling to end-users. The company is entering a crowded market with heavyweights SAP and Oracle, for instance, which are readying their own wares.

"The whole portal metaphor is a powerful one, but the real challenge is getting people to use it, to leverage the information sources the company is making available," said Mark Wesker, president of Sequoia Software. "Our goal is to provide customers [with] a full range of more real-world-type applications that provide more value to the target users but don't detract from their productivity."

Sequoia will offer that capability through partnerships announced this week with providers of benefits planning, travel, and procurement applications.

Those applications will be tied in to Sequoia's XML Portal Server, creating what Josh Walker, an analyst at Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass., feels is the ideal corporate portal solution.

"The idea [of a portal] is that once you have folks at a Web site, that's where knowledge management really takes place, but first you need a way to attract employees to an internal knowledge-sharing site," Walker said.

"These populist applications do create that all-elusive virtual watercooler, which is the Holy Grail of the corporate portal," he said.

That Holy Grail, Walker said, is something that many current portal solutions, such as MySAP.com, fall short of due to a focus that, while extremely functional, is not quite broad enough in terms of the services they offer end-users.

One company Walker feels has a good chance to succeed where solutions such as MySAP.com have failed is Oracle, which can offer a wide range of functional applications with which users are already comfortable. In addition, the company has a portal strategy in place that could provide the necessary infrastructure for building a feasible corporate solution.

Oracle, meanwhile, is looking to boost its presence in the corporate portal market. Jeremy Burton, Oracle's vice president of server marketing, hinted that the company is closer than most would think to entering the portal market in earnest.

In fact, Burton said, Oracle's WebDB 3.0, the company's portal building tool, is now in beta testing, and Oracle has provided 12 partners with an early version of its Portlet software developer's kit in an effort to jump-start its portal strategy.

Sequoia Software Corp., in Columbia, Md., is at www.sequoiasoftware.com.

Sequoia's populist partners

Sequoia Software will integrate the following into its XML Portal Server in an effort to make corporate portals more compelling to end-users.

* Biztravel.com for travel services

* 401Kafe.com for investment updates

* Officemax.com for procurement

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